If ever you wake up in the middle of the night with an exciting idea; an idea with the expansive goal of helping people be healthier, be happier, and, oh yeah, save the world; an idea that achieves these goals in a way that is flexible, inclusive and tolerant; be prepared. Be prepared for your labor of love to be all consuming. Be prepared for your own second-guessing and self-doubt. Be prepared for the injuries from banging your head against the wall as you try to find an approachable way to articulate your thoughts. And know, that if your idea survives all that, the real work is yet to come.
Over the course of the past several weeks, I rolled out a modular description of the Karma Sense Eating Plan (KSEP). Last week, I posted about the last of 5 mantras in what I call the Eating component. Prior to that, the Karma and Sense components each had their moment.
Now the hard work begins. The description of the Plan component has to honor all that modularity, flexibility, and individuality but still help you get to your end goal. Everyone wants to be healthier, happier, and make the world a better place but what that looks like to each person is different. So the approach I take to tie all this together is similar to what you get with a Lego set. You buy it to build that pirate ship.
But sooner or later, you’re pulling the monkey head off and making it stick out of one of the cannons and you’re disembodying a pirate and shoving him neck first into the shark’s mouth. You’re tweaking the scene. Next thing you know, you rearrange the blocks to turn the pirate ship into a pirate rocket ship.
This post describes what you need to know to build A pirate ship. It also tells you what you need to think about to build YOUR pirate ship
If you haven’t read any of the Karma Sense series before, you may want to read the summary here. There is an index here that will tie you back to any of the previous detailed posts. Because a comprehensive overview of KSEP is required to assemble your own plan, there are a few brief summaries below.
But first I have to set some expectations with the following…
Disclaimer #1 – I am Still Not a Doctor.
The entire Karma Sense series is concerned with, among other subjects, your health. The conventional medical community is very protective of this domain. The initial discussion on the Karma and Sense components explore aspects of health that “conventional” medicine isn’t worried about. They barely acknowledge it. It’s the mind-over-matter part. Even mantra #1 of the Eating component, Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full, is of little concern. However, as soon as I started talking about what you eat, I began walking the fine line between good old common sense (more like great new Karma Sense) and medical advice. No aspect of what I describe in the Karma Sense series or anywhere else should be construed as a prescription for disease treatment or as medical advice. If you have any questions about how the topics I discuss affect health outcomes, please consult someone on your medical health care team.
Disclaimer #2 – This Post Demonstrates my Attention Deficit Issues Even More Than its Predecessors
In the introductory post of the Karma Sense series, I describe a struggle over the use of the label “Plan” to identify the last component. Creating a plan around a set of common sense healthy behaviors you can adopt or ignore at your own pace seemed like a fool’s errand. Then I realized I was just the person for that errand and I’ve grown accustomed to the term. While the Karma Sense Eating Plan is definitely loosey-goosey, it can be structured into a sort-of-blueprint for better health that achieves very specific results. This post on the Plan component covers the many different considerations in case you have the motivation and knowledge to assemble a structured plan by yourself. In order to cover everything, I’m forced to skip across a variety of subjects. The resulting text may lack some of the coherence you’ve come to expect. (Editors Note: Coherence? Is that what you call it?). As I jump around on different subjects, please be patient as there will be some attempt to tie it all together in the end.
Disclaimer #3 – This Post Primarily Discusses Customization of the Eating Component. This Should not Minimize the Importance of the Karma and Sense Components in your Eyes.
Karma, Gratitude, and Mindfulness (aka Brainy-Quiet-Time aka BQT) are essential parts of the Karma Sense Eating Plan. But, the plan totally defers to your own definition of good deeds, gratitude, and BQT because the positive outcomes are driven by your good feelings about these actions.
KSEP’s guidelines for eating, however, depend more on the science of good nutrition. It is driven by the less flexible laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. Therefore, the customizations discussed below plug away primarily at the Eating component. Please do not assume that this focus on Eating minimizes the importance of Karma and Sense in any way. Opportunities for happiness and world-saving are maximized when all KSEP components are implemented.
Wow, those disclaimers are the most serious things I’ve written since the time I misbehaved in school and had to do a 100 word essay on why I shouldn’t call a teacher a “stinky poopy head.” Even after I finished the essay, that organic chem professor never really forgave me. And speaking of forgiveness, forgive me the indulgence of providing a brief overview of the Karma Sense Eating Plan. Think of it as the instruction sheet they shove in your box of Legos.
Karma Sense Eating Plan Overview
Different people have different learning styles. So I offer this overview in any of three formats.
The Karma Sense Eating Plan mixes the science of behavior change, gratitude, and nutrition and sprinkles it liberally with some faith in your fellow humans. Its goal is to support your health, happiness, and the greater good. The entire process flows like this:
- Perform a good deed that is not part of your current routine. The more that good deed is associated with food, the better. The closer that good deed is performed to your mealtime, the better. Do something you consider good. Don’t worry about someone else’s definition. In the end, everyone else’s combined goodness will even out. It’s the crowdsourced version of saving the world.
- Prior to eating all meals, stop to reflect on:
- Your good deeds,
- Something good someone did for you that is worthy of your appreciation (reverse Karma), and
- The effort that went into preparing your food.
- When eating, honor the following mantras:
- Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full
- Eat Protein in Every Meal
- Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
- Eat Whole Food Carbohydrates After Vigorous Exercise
- Eat Good Fats Daily and Get a Balance of the Different Types of Good Fats
Description in Verse
With Apologies to Paul Simon, Sung to the Tune of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
“The problem’s all inside your head”
I say to thee.
“There’s many ways for
You to become healthy.
And in the process
You can also be happy.
There’s many nifty ways
To do the Karma.”
I say, “I know you’d really
Like to save the world.”
Your skepticism shows
Your mouth becomes all curled.
But I’ll repeat myself
As the K-SEP plan’s
“There’s many nifty ways
To do the Karma.”
There’s Do a Good Deed, Reed.
Shake up your Habit, Rabbit.
Eat Less Quick, Mick.
Eat More Protein, Jean.
Fill up on Plants, Lance.
Time your Carbs, Barb.
Balance your Fat, Pat.
See what I mean?
Sorry if the meter fell out of step with the original song at the end, but more importantly it remained true to the Karma Sense Eating Plan. And in case you’re wondering, I am available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and bachelorette parties.
Now that you’re reacquainted with all the different blocks in the Lego set, let’s figure out what we want to make.
What Do I Need to Know to Make a Karma Sense Plan?
There are a series of thought exercises you can go through that maximize your plan’s chance of success. This involves looking at the big picture of your health and happiness before working out the details of a plan. By linking the details back to this big picture, you always remember why you’re engaged in this process. This is an activity that really helps you maintain motivation.
The best place to start before making any changes in the name of better health and happiness is to figure out why you want to make these changes in the first place. Personally, I find this to be a valuable exercise in everything I do. (e.g. Why am I waking up in the morning? Why am I going to work? Why do I want to smack Nelson in accounting? Why didn’t I smack Nelson in accounting [Karma?])
If you’re considering adopting the Karma Sense Eating Plan, it is probably because of one or more of the following reasons:
- You’re bored.
- You’re easily open to suggestion
- Someone else is making you (e.g. you’re in a hostage situation).
- You want to achieve something.
Let’s explore that last one. To achieve something it helps to have a clear understanding of what that “thing” is. This is perhaps encapsulated best by these words of wisdom by Yogi Berra.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”
Mr. Berra is well known for his head-scratchers. In that sense, he and I are very similar. But he nailed this one. The biggest reason people fail to reach their goals is that they don’t really understand them. They may know they want to lose weight, but they don’t really understand why it’s important to them. Or perhaps they know they want to someday run around with their children and grandchildren but they don’t know what changes to make to be sure they can do that. Maybe they have “climb Mt. Everest” on their bucket list and on that list it will remain because they have no idea how to turn a dream into reality.
A great place to start is to develop a vivid understanding of vision, values, and focus. There are people whose professional careers are focused on helping others gain that understanding of themselves. I know because I am one (contact me 🙂 ).
Although I obviously believe there is great value in working with a professional health coach to find your “thing”, it’s not a requirement of the Karma Sense Eating Plan. There are some lightning round questions you can ask yourself to navigate from the bird’s eye view of where you want your health to be in the future to the bug’s eye level of detail. Here’s a sample of the kind of questions:
- When you think about your best future, how far ahead do you look (e.g. 5 years, 10 years, 6 months)?
- In that future, how will you feel mentally and physically?
- What will you be doing? Answer this one as completely as possible trying to address the who, what, where, when, and how questions (e.g who are you with?)
- What really matters to you in life?
- What about the vision above stands out as a reflection of what matters to you?
- What strengths do you have that will help you achieve the vision?
- What improvements do you feel you need to make to achieve the vision?
When thinking about the improvements you feel you need to make,
- Which ones seem most important?
- Which are achievable within the time frame of your vision?
- Which changes are you most confident about making now?
- How could you describe them so they become discrete actions that drive better health and happiness?
By developing the complete picture of what you want for the healthy, happy version of you, you end up with everything you need to map out the rest of your course. But fear not if a thought exercise like the one above doesn’t work for you. As you progress through the planning process, we’ve got you covered.
Now that you are comfortable with your new definition of health and happiness, the next considerations are your…
Now that you know where you want to go, you should take a realistic look at your non-negotiables, desired avoidables and plain old foibles. Any plan that refuses to accept who you are may make you healthier, but it won’t make you happier. And if you’re not happy, you’re not going to stick to it. Worst of all is that unhappy people are generally pretty bad at saving the world.
So take some time to consider all these aspects before diving in the KSEP pool. Here are some questions to ask yourself about each,
Non-negotiables are things you just won’t do or that you won’t give up.
- What foods will you just never eat because they violate some value or because the thought of them ties your stomach in a knot?
- What foods must be included in your diet somehow because the thought of never eating them again makes you feel sad, lonely, scared, or violent?
- What aspects of your life complicate your eating habits such as travel, shift work, traditional family meal or living next door to Five Guys?
As an example, my non-negotiables are that I won’t totally give up ice cream, beer, or wine. I won’t eat most organs (because they’re gross) and I won’t eat turkey (because at this point they’re mostly genetically engineered monsters and not that delicious anyway). I travel a lot for work. And, I live across the street from a bar with a great beer selection.
Avoidables are like non-negotiables but you’re not as strident about them. They’re a little more challenging to surface.
- What foods present a value conflict (e.g. you like a food, but it violates one of your principles)?
- What foods would you like to have more often but don’t due to some limitation in your environment (e.g. you want to eat more broccoli but you haven’t found a preparation that you like)?
- What foods do you think you should eat less often, believe you can reduce your consumption, but just haven’t done so yet?
- What situations do you typically face that challenge your discipline or self-control (e.g. you can’t walk past a coffee shop without buying a giant coffee milkshake and there is a coffee shop on every corner)?
My avoidables are that I love pork in many forms but hate the way the brilliant creatures that supply my pancetta are treated. I’d like to cut back my animal consumption in general but haven’t found a way to do so that jives with my fitness goals. I can generally say no to french fries but do like them when they’re well made and sometimes have a craving. And, between the hours of 8:30 and 10:30 PM it is very difficult for me to decline an offer of easily accessible ice cream.
Foibles are those totally weird beliefs or habits that you have that impact how and what you eat. These are things like being grossed out when one of the foods on your plate touches other foods. Or having to have all the brown M&Ms removed before you eat them.
I don’t have any foibles. Everything I do is normal. So I can offer no personal examples. Now excuse me while I deconstruct my Ho-Ho (which I believe is what people who aren’t from the north east U.S. call Yodells).
In the end, it may be that these constraints have no effect on your Karma Sense Eating Plan implementation at all. But you don’t want to develop a plan only to discover it was doomed to failure from the start because you didn’t include them in your thought process.
What you now have as a result of the destination and constraint exercise is a complete inventory of everything that is important in your life. It should include your thoughts on:
- How active and rested you want to be.
- How you want to nourish your body and your soul.
- Who the people are that matter to you.
- Where you want to be physically and mentally.
- How you want to spend your time.
- Any themes that tie all these things together.
No matter how far you get in this exercise, you’re now at the point where you can lay out your Karma Sense Eating Plan and you can tie that plan to your…
You’re now ready to define your Karma Sense Eating goal. The specificity of this goal is directly related to how much progress you made in the previous exercise. For the sake of discussion, we’ll assume three levels of specificity. And because I’m such a creative fellow, I’ll call them “low”, “medium” and “high”.
A low specificity goal is what you end up with if your vision is not well developed, but the Karma Sense Eating Plan just feels right. Your low specificity goal is most likely a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) such as “I want to be healthier, happier, and, oh yeah, save the world.” The advantage of working with a BHAG is that you’ll have a lot more flexibility in implementation. The disadvantage is that it will be difficult to convince yourself that you’re making progress. If you’re a laid-back, mellow, non-striving sort of cat, you may not worry about seeing progress. On the other hand, you may be the kind who gets motivated when you see progress. If you’re that latter type, you need that full vision or, as Yogi said, you might not get there. In the end, it’s up to you. But know that professional support is available when you’re ready. Also, cranking up your good Karma deeds will expand your friendship circle and provide you a whole stable of people to give encouragement and support.
Medium specificity goals are more like the ones you read about in the Special Considerations section in each of the mantra descriptions. These include but are not limited to:
- Lose weight
- Maintain weight but be healthier
- Gain weight in the form of muscle
To these we can add others that are not directly tied to the Eating component. Examples include:
- Manage stress
- Be happier
- Feel like I’m making a meaningful contribution
All of these are goals that KSEP can help with. With these types of goals you would initially adopt the components and/or mantras that are most relevant. Like the BHAG, you have flexibility. Unlike the BHAG it is somewhat easier to measure progress. But you still can run into motivation traps. How do you know you’ve lost enough weight or that you’re sufficiently happy? There is nothing wrong with not knowing the answer to that question. If you’re comfortable, to quote Abe Lincoln, “Party on, dude!”
With high specificity goals, you know exactly what you want to get done and by when you want to get it done. If we look at some of the situations we discussed when exploring Vision, Values, and Focus, these could be:
- I want to lose weight. Specifically I want to change my body composition so that my body fat percentage is 15% and I want to do it by my high school reunion next summer.
- I want to run around with my children and grandchildren. But I don’t usually have much energy, I am not very active, and my vital signs indicate I’m at risk of heart disease. I need to revitalize my energy levels so I can become more active and be around for when my children have children.
- I want to climb Mt. Everest within the next 5 years so I can cross that off my bucket list. That means I need to become leaner and stronger so I can support my own body weight and begin training.
KSEP is perfect for these goals. What is great about goals like these is they are very motivating. They can easily be translated into specific measurable actions. Also, they provide a direct line of sight to the goal (15% body fat) and the vision (look hot at my high school reunion.) They don’t allow much flexibility. They require expertise that many people don’t have. They also are difficult for people to manage on their own because they require a level of objectivity that’s hard to have about oneself. This is a long way of me saying that these kind of goals often require professional support.
Regardless of what level of specificity you landed upon, you’re now ready to…
Build Your Plan
The first question you need to answer to form your plan is…
Do I Need Help and If So, From Whom?
The answer to this is of course, “It depends.” Fortunately there is a finite number of variables and outcomes that drive the decision. Think about the goal you settled upon when deriving your plan inputs. Now ask these two questions:
- How motivated am I?
- How knowledgeable am I about what it takes to get it done?
Depending on the answer, you may want help from one of the following:
- Nobody – You’re a loner. A rebel.
- Nutrition Coach – Someone who appreciates my goals and constraints and can teach me how to maneuver.
- Health Coach – Someone who keeps you motivated but provides you the autonomy and space you need to drive your own plan.
I could explain how to mix and match all these things in words. But why do that when I can introduce a table?
Beautiful, isn’t it? By the way, I deny the rumor that it was once said to me “Is that a banana in your pocket or did you just create a table?”
If you decide you want support, then your work for the Plan component may very well be done for now. Identify that coach and move forward with this new found partner. I hope you consider me.
If you don’t know where to start, for example, you know Davey H is a coach but you also know a little too much about him at this point and feel he’s a bad fit, I’m still happy to help you find the kind of support you need. I have the pleasure of knowing some of the best in the industry and am happy to point you in the right direction.
If you don’t want support or are still unsure, the next question is…
What Components and Mantras Are Best Suited to My Goals?
The Karma Sense Eating Plan is designed so you can adopt it all, Big Bang style or by partial adoption. Which of those you choose depends on how well you know yourself.
If you know yourself to be very disciplined and open to change, by all means go Big Bang. Otherwise, you should look at each component and mantra closely and prioritize the ones that seem most important, most effective, most likely to bring about the desired change, and easiest to adopt. You should examine these variables in light of the vision, values, focus and goals you developed.
Keep in mind that this plan is created by and belongs to you. At no time are you obligated to implement all of KSEP to reap the benefit. There is a great deal of flexibility in how to comply with the components and mantras. The Karma Sense Eating Plan is an open source strategy for optimal health, happiness, and world saving. That means you get to decide how you participate. I’m only here to help. You can adopt it all or you can select the parts that work for you. But the more you adopt, the more likely you’ll reach your goal. That’s why I think we all agree that in many respects, the Karma Sense Eating Plan is a lot like…
The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
If you don’t agree, that’s probably because you don’t know enough about the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Lucky you in that the Karma Sense Eating Plan can increase your Power Ranger knowledge too.
The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is a TV show/merchandising extravaganza aimed at the attention deficit prone (So I am the target audience). It combines dinosaurs, robots, aliens, monsters, martial arts, loud noises and bright colors into a panoply of splendor and commercialism (I’m sure you’re starting to see the parallels to KSEP). Its heroes consist of teenagers from every sex, race, and strata (Like KSEP, they’re inclusive!). They initially fight their enemies in hand-to-hand combat with the occasional supplement by knife, sword, or stick. If the battle escalates they engage their armored-robotic-extinct-animal-mobiles (aka Zords) to participate in the fight. And if that doesn’t work, their Zords link together and transform into a giant amalgamated robot (Megazord, of course) that never loses. You may ask, “why not cut to the chase and go right to the Megazord to begin with?” Well, duh, it is part of the Power Rangers’ code to never escalate a battle until their opponent does. The Power Rangers may be a cheap and cynical vehicle for selling toys and t-shirts but they do have standards.
If you want to see the whole ridiculously stupid-awesome scene play out, you can get the idea in this 1:45 minute video. I opted to not embed it directly in this post because I don’t want to be held liable for the IQ points you lose after watching it. But speaking of points, I do have a Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger point to make. The components and mantras of the Karma Sense Eating Plan are like the Power Rangers Zords. Individually they go a long way in fighting the good fight for better health and happiness. But if you really want to save the world, combine them all.
To assist with this endeavor, below we’ll do a quick examination of how the components interrelate and the implications of adopting certain ones in isolation.
To execute on the Karma component, you need to do a good deed that is not part of your normal routine. Making this a habit works wonders in making you happy. It is also your contribution to saving the world. In general, happy people are healthier than unhappy people. But it is difficult for most of us to see the connection to how happy we are and how healthy we are. If I were you, I’d absolutely include the Karma component, the regular performance of some new good deed, in your initial implementation.
When you implement the Sense component, you’re tying your good deed to how you eat. You’re doing this because introducing this new step in your eating process, helps you develop better eating habits for the long term. And the way I ask you to do this also makes you a happier person. To execute on the Sense component, you are supposed to reflect upon the following just prior to beginning a meal:
- Your good deed and the effect if had on others.
- A kindness done for your benefit by someone (that someone could be you) and how you plan to express your gratitude.
- The effort that went into any and all aspects of creating your meal.
On the surface, this seems very easy to do but it is a lot of change to take on. Unless you are the type who can develop new habits easily, I recommend that you defer implementation of this component until the Karma component is an ingrained habit.
If however, saving the world is not on your agenda, you could adopt the Sense component simply by including the second two reflections in your pre-meal ritual. Doing just this for a sustained period will go a long way in making you happier.
The Eating component is designed for all 5 mantras to play nicely with each other. By adopting them all, you are building a foundation for good nutrition that will last you for the rest of your life. If you make following all 5 mantras a truly ingrained habit, you are crowding out all of the foods that throw your nutrition out of whack. But, for most of us, adopting all of them at once is very difficult. So here’s some advice on how to decide and prioritize.
Mantra #1, Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full
This mantra is another aspect of KSEP that can provide benefit when adopted in isolation without following any other part of the plan. There are no unintended consequences of adopting this one while ignoring the rest.
Mantra #2, Eat Protein in Every Meal
By including more protein in your diet, you should feel fuller sooner and for longer. However, if you do this without adopting mantras 3 and 5, there is a risk of running afoul to some of the overall benefits. For example, the description of this mantra talks about some real issues that can occur with excessive protein intake. The vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in vegetables and fruits help prevent those negative effects from happening. Meanwhile, whether you are a meat eater or vegetarian, your fat balance can get out of whack unless you deliberately eat the balance of different good fats that are part of mantra #5.
Mantra #3, Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
There is no downside to adopting this mantra in isolation. Of the ones that involve consuming food (mantras 2-5), it may be the hardest to follow because of the aversion people have towards vegetables (and to a lesser extent fruits). The description of mantra #3 had loads of suggestions on how to work around these difficulties.
Mantra #4, Eat Whole Food Carbohydrates After Vigorous Exercise
Like mantra #3, this is a mantra that can stand on its own. There is no downside to focusing on whole food sources of carbohydrates when linked to physical activity.
Mantra #5, Eat Good Fats Daily and Get a Balance of the Different Types of Good Fats
The key to implementing a standalone version of this mantra is to understand your status quo diet very well. From there, you have to add good fats where you are out of whack. Once you begin doing that, you have to consider the source of those fats. If you follow the typical North American diet with high saturated and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, you need to get more monounsaturated and Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats in your diet. This can be done with foods or supplements (e.g. pills). The Karma Sense Eating Plan prefers that you do this with real food. Either way, you’re increasing your calorie count and unless you make adjustments elsewhere in your diet, you’re going to gain weight, most likely as body fat.
So, your honor, I rest my case for the Megazord-i-ness of the Karma Sense Eating Plan. And like those Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, who are dedicated to saving the world, you can save the world and your own health and happiness as long as you select your implementation plan wisely.
Let’s look at a wise implementation plan.
An Example – Choose Foods That Swim, Kim
Kimberly is a gymnast as well as the pink Power Ranger who controls the Pterodactyl Zord. She needs to maintain her energy and strength so she can perform on the mat and on the field of battle. She is particularly concerned about her bone health as she ages because women in her family have a history of osteoporosis. Kimberly likes meat but has some moral issues with consuming animal products. These issues relate partially to the treatment of animals and partially to her belief that after spending so much time protecting earth from evil monsters, it would be a shame to cause its destruction from climate change. Kimberly is disciplined by nature, otherwise she would not succeed as a gymnast nor as a Power Ranger. However, her busy schedule makes it very difficult to instill change. Kimberly already does quite a bit to save the world but feels she could show more gratitude towards others. How can she reconcile all this and still have Karma Sense?
Kimberly can honor her inner pterodactyl by adopting a diet similar to her Zord’s. Pterodactyls primarily eat marine life. By getting most of her protein through wild-caught fish and plant sources, she can honor her moral concerns without going total vegetarian. Many fish are high in calcium as well as Omega-3 fats. By combining a shift to fish and plant-based sources of protein with an increased intake of vegetables, she will optimize her bone health. Due to the physical stress gymnastics and monster-fighting puts on Kimberly’s body, she needs to be sure to get enough carbohydrates. Since she is active, carb timing is less of a concern. Kimberly wants to demonstrate more gratitude, she has decided to overtly thank the food service employees in her high school cafeteria.
With the above story, we can now turn this into an initial implementation plan. Kimberly decides she can probably take on 3 new habits at a time. She chooses to do the following every day:
- Eat one serving of fish or plant-based protein in every meal (mantra #2 with some residual effect on mantra #5).
- Eat two servings of vegetables in every meal and 1 serving of fruit twice a day (mantra #3).
- Thank a high school cafeteria worker every day and complete a positive comment card once a month.
Kimberly is fine with the rule of thumb that it takes 21 days to complete a new habit. Her health coach hero is fond of tables so she creates 3 tables that look like this (1 table for each week):
|1 Serving of fish/plant protein for breakfast
2 Servings of vegetables for breakfast
|1 Serving of fish/plant protein for lunch
2 Servings of vegetables for lunch
|1 Serving of fish/plant protein for dinner
2 Servings of vegetables for dinner
|2 Servings of fruit per day|
|Thank a high school cafeteria worker||♦||♦|
If I was Kimberley, and clearly I am not because pink is not my color, I may choose to structure the table differently. However, this one works for Kimberley. She plans on putting an “X” in the cell of the table for every time she completes the action. You may notice that she did not include the comment card habit in her table. Since that occurs monthly, she will just mark her calendar to reminder her to do it. Also, she blocked off her act of Karma on Saturday and Sunday since the school cafeteria is not open on those days.
When Kimberly reaches consistent 90% compliance (to be discussed next) with her new habits, she will include additional aspects of KSEP to her life. She is considering completing her support of mantra #5 and adding mantra #1 if she can figure out how to not feel rushed whenever aliens hatch a plot to kidnap the Power Ranger’s robot pal, Alpha 5.
And there you have a real life Karma Sense implentation for a fictional character.
But what about this thing called…
You would never know it by the way I write, but I’m not delusional. I recognize that expecting 100% conformance to the components and mantras of the Karma Sense Eating Plan is unreasonable, unrealistic, unexciting, and unbecoming of a cool, fun, fancy-free person such as you. And actually, it totally goes against Karma Sense. This begs the question, what is compliance and how do you manage it?
Compliance – What It Is
For something as fungible as the Karma Sense Eating Plan, defining and tracking compliance may seem like an exercise in futility. Well, I’m always up for a little exercise. By creating a plan like Kimberly’s above, we now have something we can either follow or ignore. In KSEP, there are two ways to ignore your plan:
- An opportunity arises to invoke one of the habits you plan to adopt and you don’t. In Kimberly’s case, this might be forgetting to thank the cafeteria worker at Thursday lunch because she is worried that Zordon, the Power Ranger’s mentor, disapproves of her using her Zord to go to the mall.
- You choose to eat a food that is not supported by the Karma Sense Eating Plan. For me, that would be days that I indulge in a little Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby and a pint of beer (don’t judge).
Compliance – Managing It
The first thing to keep in mind about Compliance as it relates to the Karma Sense Eating Plan is that it’s counterpart, Noncompliance is just as critical a part of KSEP as Compliance. When you choose to be Noncompliant, it’s not defiance of KSEP. It’s identifying those times that are candidates for employing the habits you are developing but are not opting to do so at this time. There are no good or bad reasons for choosing noncompliance. But for the mantras in the Eating component, it is just as important to include noncompliant times as compliant times. Here’s why:
- As your body adapts to the new super healthy lifestyle you are leading, it starts to take the new habits for granted. For example, if you’ve adopted aspects of KSEP to lose weight, over time, your body begins to accommodate for the way you are feeding it. This may mean that weight loss stalls. By throwing your body a curve (Shake it Up!), it can prevent a plateau from happening. This study demonstrates one of the ways this phenomenon manifests itself.
- If you are avoiding certain foods that you normally crave, you may get a feeling of deprivation. Every day you go without that food increases the pressure and causes you to crave it more. If you know in advance that you will have the opportunity to eat that food, it relieves the pressure.
- Because I promised you (repeatedly) that KSEP was inclusive and not about taking things away and I keep my promises.
The bottom line is that noncompliance is Karma Science and Karma Sense. Many diet and nutrition experts bristle at the term “noncompliance.” Instead, they use the word “refeed”. “Refeed” is a perfectly good name for what you’re doing in a plan that focuses solely on nutrition and health. But a plan that focuses on your happiness and enables you to save the world has to think beyond just “feeding”. Besides, we’re all grownups (well you people are, I’m more of a man-child). We don’t need to sugar coat things (except on refeed days).
The next thing to keep in mind about compliance is how we measure it. My recommendation is just a flat percentage. For example, Kimberly’s implementation plan could include 90% compliance. If she was successful during that 21 day period, the 3 tables she created would have at least 93 cells X-ed out (5 rows*21 columns-2 cells=103 opportunities for compliance. 90% of 103 is about 93.)
The question is, how do we choose what our compliance target should be? There is a rule of thumb that 90% is the right number for sustained fat loss or muscle gain. I looked far and wide for research supporting this and came up dry. In the end, it appears to be a good starting point. You then will want to consider things like the time sensitivity of your goals and what you know about your own ability to be disciplined. For an extreme example, if your goal is to lose 5 pounds in one week (it’s possible) you have very little wiggle room and need to aim for near 100% compliance. If the time frame for your goal is further out, you have more leeway.
You also should look closely at any of the constraints that you identified when you were analyzing the Plan Inputs. If you have dinner every Sunday at mama’s house and it will destroy her if you don’t eat her lasagna but eating lasagna would qualify as noncompliance in your plan, then you’re starting off at a maximum of 95% compliance right out of the gate (if you eat 3 meals/day, that’s 21 meals/week. 1 noncompliant meal represents 5%).
And this brings me to the final suggestion on managing compliance. You will be more successful in reaching your goals if you plan up front for noncompliance. It is better to know ahead of time which days and times you don’t expect to hold yourself to the plan you created. You will also be more successful if you decide up front how your noncompliance will play out. For example, if you decide you’re going out for pizza and beer on Thursday, decide up front what you will order and how much you will consume. Try to do what you say but don’t beat yourself up if you fall off course. If you did, it’s because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Instead, see if you learned anything from the event and come up with strategies to work around it next time.
Compliance with Embedded Constraints
An embedded constraint is one that is contrary to the guidelines of the Karma Sense Eating Plan but is inextricably tied to you. As you now know, foods with added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol are not covered by the mantras. But for many, these are some of the most pleasurable foods. So pleasurable that they are part of your life. KSEP wouldn’t be KSEP if it denied this. There are several strategies for addressing these cases.
I’ll be the guinea pig for this discussion. I like ice cream and I like to have a drink now and then (as long as now and then is most nights around dinner time). I really would like to maintain my weight. With ice cream, I’d happily eat it every night but I can skip a few nights a week without breaking into hives. So I don’t have it every night. On nights when I do have it, I try to earn it by making sure my day was especially active. For alcohol, I do usually have a drink or two on most nights. My drink of choice is beer or red wine. I know that I don’t tend to gain weight if I have one or two glasses of wine a night. I now have a habit for ice cream and a habit for alcohol that I can add to my Plan table. If I eat ice cream on a day when I did not meet my activity goal or if I have beer instead of wine, those were noncompliance events.
And if I want to drop a few pounds? I just adjust my plan to give up my embedded constraints until I reach my goal. This is very manageable when I know it is for a finite period. Sometimes, it allows me to shake the habit altogether. French fries used to be one of my embedded constraints. Then I gave them up (as well as beer) to meet a goal and I never felt the need to eat them again. Beer also became a bygone habit. Unfortunately, I started traveling to Belgium a lot where they make the best fries and beer in the world. Now I occasionally crave them again but as noncompliance foods instead of embedded constraints.
And that is pretty much everything you need to know to build your own Karma Sense Eating Plan. To close, let’s look at one more example but this time with a high specificity goal.
An Example – Eat Veggie Chili, Billy
Billy is an aspiring scientist and computer enthusiast. He also controls the Triceratops Zord as the Blue Power Ranger. Billy spends a lot of late nights in his lab and at the computer. Much like a triceratops, he is a vegetarian but lives on instant ramen and late night pizza delivery. Lately, Billy is finding that he is less effective in battle. Other than when he is called to action, he leads a sedentary lifestyle. Between that, his late hours, his stressful secret life and his dependency on convenience foods, his belly is expanding.
Billy examines his vision and values and decides he needs to be a more effective fighter of evil and nastiness. He would like to focus on packing on muscle and losing fat. He has a goal to lose 20 pounds of fat while packing on 5 pounds of muscle in the next year. His only constraints are, he still wants to be able to eat pizza every once in a while, he wants to eat mostly plants but is OK eating dairy and eggs, and whatever he eats needs to be convenient.
Billy’s goal is absolutely high specificity. This will require some nutrition planning that is beyond the scope of what is documented in the Karma Sense series. Billy’s science-oriented mind means he can develop a plan without the support of a coach, but he decides to depend on one because he can be absent minded and values the motivational support. Together with his coach, they come up with a very specific plan that matches Billy’s goal and body type. The plan tracks total calories, macronutrients, and is in sync with the Karma Sense Eating Plan. Billy’s Karma Sense Plan for each week looks like this:
|Eat 1800 calories per day|
|Eat 155 g of protein per day|
|Eat 115 g of carbohydrates per day|
|Eat 80 g of fat per day|
|Only eat pizza on exercise days|
|Walk to get pizza and groceries|
|Do resistance exercise 3 days per
As a vegetarian, getting enough protein will be difficult for Billy so he works closely with his coach to devise meal plans. It will involve eating more eggs and beans than he is used to but it is worth it. Billy will need to find alternatives to the refined carbohydrates he eats, but he can’t give up the convenience they offer. His coach teaches Billy a cool technique on how he can prepare a whole carb, high protein vegetarian chili on the weekend that will last several days and can be dressed up to seem like a completely different meal every day (recipe available in the forthcoming Karma Sense Eating Plan book). It also ensures that he gets enough vegetable servings during the week which wasn’t an explicit goal but a nice side benefit. Finally, Billy, who like most scientists, believes in climate change, agrees to walk instead of driving to get the food he needs. This will be his additional contribution to the greater good that he will reflect upon prior to meals. To help build muscle, Billy will need to do resistance exercise 3 days per week. He blocks out those days he does not plan to exercise on his planning table.
Because Billy’s plan is highly specific, it benefits from a more detailed set of actions. Also, since he has a specific time frame in mind, he will aim for 95% compliance. If he finds he is progressing faster than expected, he will throttle that down to 90% if he feels it will help his mindset. It is possible that once he gets used to a habit of cleaner eating, he will not want to revert to old habits that made him feel sluggish.
And there you have it.
What Gets You Excited?
As many of you know, I came up with the concept of the Karma Sense Eating Plan in a dream that jolted me awake. It was an exciting way to wake up. It put me on a path to do some marathon writing over many nights so I could get it all committed to “paper”. But it served as the perfect vehicle for achieving what I want to do for the rest of my life…Spread happiness. Help people attain their own vision of health. Love the food they eat.
Each time I released a new post my excitement grew as I got that much closer to explaining the process in its entirety.
This post therefore, is somewhat anticlimactic as I hand over the last of what you need to lead a life of Karma Sense. You would do this by:
- Getting a feeling for the building blocks; the components and mantras of the Karma Sense Eating Plan.
- Defining the destination you expect to reach by exploring your vision, values, and focus.
- Becoming in touch with your constraints; the non-negotiables, avoidables, and foibles.
- Settling on a goal.
- Identifying what and who you may need for support.
- Matching your goals to the most relevant and useful KSEP building blocks.
- Structuring your plan including your compliance schedule.
But anticlimactic or no, I’m still excited. There’s a lot of world-saving to do. I plan on contributing by further developing the Karma Sense Eating Plan. I’d love to offer up more on the science of performing good deeds (Karma Science), case studies on what happens when real people invoke the plan, more special considerations that focus on real health and happiness issues, shopping and implementation tools, recipes, and more. If you’re interested in contributing any content to this next phase, please contact me.
I went to sleep one night and something exciting happened when I woke up. I woke up with a superpower.
May you all wake up to something exciting!